Instruction For Young
GROWTH IN GRACE
Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. II Peter 3:18
The term "grace" is used in the Bible in several different senses.
Grace, in God, is synonymous with beneficence. It is underserved favour.
In men, grace means holiness; that is the sense in which it is used in
the text; and to grow in grace is the same as to grow in holiness, or to
increase in conformity to God.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY GROWING IN GRACE.
To grow in grace is to increase in a spirit of conformity to the will of
God, and to govern our conduct more and more by the same principles that
God does. God has one great absorbing object which controls everything
He does. It is the promotion of His own glory by seeking to fill the
universe with holiness and happiness. He does this by exhibiting His own
character. And our object should be the same: to exhibit the character
of God more and more, to reflect as many of the rays of the image of God
as possible. That is, we must aim constantly to be more and more like
God. In other words, it is to obey more and more perfectly and
constantly the law of God.
II. WHAT GROWTH IN GRACE DOES NOT MEAN.
It does not mean that gradual giving up of sin. Strange to tell, it
would seem that some have so understood it; but we are nowhere in the
Bible commanded to give up sin gradually, we are everywhere commanded to
give it up instantly and wholly.
III. CONDITIONS OF GROWTH IN GRACE.
1. Growth or increase in anything implies a beginning. Growth in the
favour of God implies that we have already found favour in His sight,
that we are already indebted for grace received, and that we are already
in grace, in the sense of having a place among His favoured ones.
2. Consequently, growth in grace implies that we have already repented
of our sin, have actually and practically abandoned all known sin. It
cannot be that we are in favour with God if we are still indulging in
known sin against Him. Being in favour with God implies that we are
pardoned and favoured by Him, for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. Pardon is favour, and implies the renunciation of rebellion
3. Growth in the knowledge of God is a condition of growth in His
favour. We might grow in knowledge, without growing in His favour,
because we might not love and trust Him in accordance with this
increased knowledge. But we cannot love and trust Him more perfectly,
unless we become more perfectly acquainted with Him. If our love and
faith keep pace with our growing knowledge, we must grow in His favour.
4. Growth in the knowledge of God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, must be
a condition of growth in His favour. It is in and through Jesus Christ
that we get the true idea of the personality of the infinite God.
5. Growth in grace is conditioned on increasing knowledge of what is
involved in entire consecration to God. True conversion to God involves
the consecration of ourselves and of all that we have to Him, so far as
we understand what is implied in this. But, at first, converts are by no
means aware of all that is involved in the highest forms of
consecration. They will soon learn that there are certain things that
they did not think of, and that they did not give up to God. At first,
perhaps, all that was in their thought was to lay their naked soul upon
the altar, and give up their whole heart to God. But soon they may learn
that they did not think of all their possessions, of everything that was
dear to them.
To gain such a knowledge is a work of time; and growth in the favour of
God is conditioned on making a full surrender and consecration to God of
everything we are, and have, and desire, and love, as fast as these
objects are presented to thought.
6. Another condition of growth in grace is intense earnestness and
constancy in seeking increased religious light by the illumination of
the Holy Spirit. You will gain no effectual religious light except by
the inward showing and teaching of the Holy Spirit. This you will not
obtain unless you continue in the true attitude of a disciple of Christ.
Remember, He says, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that
he hath, he cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:13. He will not, by His Holy
Spirit, be your Divine Teacher unless you renounce self, and live in a
state of continual consecration to Him.
7. Another condition of growth in grace is a constant conformity to all
the teachings of the Holy Spirit, keeping up with our convictions of
duty and with our growing knowledge of the will of God.
8. A more and more implicit faith in God is a condition of growth in
grace. By implicit, I mean an unreasoning faith, a confidence in God's
character so profound that we trust Him in the dark as well as in the
light, as well when we do not understand the reasons of His dealings
with us, or of His requirements, as when we do; a faith like that of
Abraham, who "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief"
Romans 4:20; though the thing promised seemed irrational and impossible.
9. A more thoroughly sanctified sensibility is a condition of growth in
the favour of God. By the sensibility, I mean that department of our
nature that feels and desires, to which belongs all that we call desire,
affection, emotion, feeling, appetite, passion, propensity, lust. The
sensibility is an involuntary power, and moral actions and qualities
cannot, with strict propriety, be predicted of it. The states of the
sensibility have moral character only as they derive it, directly or
indirectly, from the action of the will.
The nature of man, as a whole, in his depraved condition, is in a very
unlovely state, and although the will may be given up to God, the
sensibility may be in such a state as to be very unlovely in the sight
of One that looks directly upon it, and knows perfectly every excited
desire, passion, propensity, lust. It is through the sensibility,
mainly, that we are assailed with temptations. It is through this that
the Christian warfare is kept up.
The Christian warfare consists in the battle of the will with these
various appetites, passions, propensities, and lusts, to keep them in
subjection to the will of God. If the will maintains its integrity, and
cleaves to the will of God, the soul does not sin in its battle with the
excited states of the sensibility. But these rebellious propensities
embarrass the will in the service it renders to God. To keep them under,
occupies much time, and thought, and strength. Hence the soul cannot
render to God so complete a service, while exerting the full strength of
the will to subjugate these propensities, as it otherwise might and
These appetites, passions, and propensities, although not sinful in
themselves, have been regarded and spoken of as indwelling sin. Strictly
they cannot be sin, because they are involuntary. But they are often a
great hindrance to our growth in the favour of God. "For the flesh
lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these
are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that
ye would." Gal. 5:17. This means that we cannot do for God what we
otherwise would, because we have to battle so much with the states of
the sensibility, to keep them under. As the sensibility becomes more and
more subdued and in harmony with the will's devotion to God, we are left
free to render to God a more unembarrassed service. Therefore, the more
thorough the sanctification of the sensibility, the more thoroughly we
are in favour with God.
10. A growing thoroughness and universality of consecration, of spirit,
and body, is the condition of more and more growth in the favour of God.
It is common, at first, for the steadfastness of the will's devotion to
God to be overcome by the clamour of the excited appetites, passions,
and propensities, or by the various states of the sensibility. Whenever
the will yields to these excited states, you sin. But, in such cases,
the sin is not willful, in the sense of being deliberate and
intentional; it is rather a slip, an inadvertency, a momentary yielding
under the pressure of highly excited feeling. Nevertheless, this
yielding is sin.
11. Hence, the taking on of a greater fullness of the Divine nature is a
condition of growth in the favour of God. Both the will and the
sensibility of God must be in a state of utmost perfection and accord.
All of His desires and feelings must be in perfect harmony with His
intelligence and His will.
Not so with us, in our state of physical depravity. The depravity of the
sensibility must be physical because it is involuntary. Still, it is
depravity, it is a lapsed or fallen state of the sensibility. This
lapsed department of our nature must be recovered, sanctified, or
completely restored to harmony with a consecrated will, and an
enlightened intelligence, or we are never fitted for heaven. As we
become more and more the partakers of the Divine nature, and of the
Divine holiness, we are more fully sanctified in spirit, soul, and body,
and of course grow more and more in the favour of God.
12. A greater and more all-pervading fullness of the Holy Spirit's
residence is another condition of growth in the favour of God. You
cannot have it too thoroughly impressed upon you that every step in the
Christian life is to be taken under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
The thing to be attained is the universal teaching and guidance of the
Holy Spirit, so that in all things you shall be led by the Spirit of
13. A deeper personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus Christ, in all
His official work and relations, is a condition of growth in grace. His
nature, work, and relations are the theme of the Bible. The Bible
presents Him to us in a great variety of relations. In my "Systematic
Theology" I have considered some sixty or more of these official
relations of Christ to the human race, and these are presented rather as
specimens and illustrations than as covering the whole ground of His
relations to us.
Now it is one thing to know Christ simply on paper, and as spoken of in
the Bible, by reading or hearing of Him, and quite another thing to know
Him personally, in these relations. The Bible is the medium of
introduction to Him personally. What is there said of Him is designed to
lead us to seek after a personal acquaintance with Him. It is by this
personal acquaintance with Him that we are made like Him. It is by
direct, personal intercourse with His mind that we take on His image.
Christ has promised to manifest Himself personally to those who love and
obey Him. Do not stop short of securing this personal manifestation of
Christ to your souls. Your growth in grace will depend upon this. Think
not of stopping short of personally knowing Christ, not only in all
these relations, but in the fullness of these relations.
Do not overlook the fact that the appropriation of Christ, in each of
these relations, is a personal act of faith. It is a putting on of the
Lord Jesus Christ, a taking of Him as yours, in each of these relations,
as your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; as your
Prophet to teach you, your King to govern you, your High Priest to atone
for you, your Mediator, your Advocate, your Strength, your Saviour, your
Hiding Place, your High Tower, your Captain and Leader, your Shield,
your Defence, your Exceeding Great Reward. In each of these relations,
and in all other of His official relations, you need to appropriate Him
by faith so as to secure to you personal intercourse with Him in these
relations. Growing in a personal acquaintance with Him, in these
relations, is an indispensable condition of growth in His favour.
IV. SOME THINGS THAT ARE NOT PROOF OF GROWTH
1. Growth in knowledge is not conclusive evidence of growth in grace.
Some degree of knowledge is indispensable to our being in favour with
God; and growth in knowledge is a condition of growth in grace; but
knowledge is not grace, and growth in knowledge does not constitute
growth in grace. A person may grow ever so much in knowledge, and yet
have no grace at all.
2. It is not certain evidence that an individual grows in grace, because
he grows in gifts. A professor of religion may increase in gifts, that
is, he may become more fluent in prayer, and more eloquent in preaching,
or more pathetic in exhortation, without being any more holy.
3. It is not proof that a person grows in grace because he thinks he is
doing so. If he keeps Christ before him, in His fullness, as his
standard, he will doubtless always, at least in this state of existence,
have but a low estimate of his own attainments. While at the same time,
if he sets before himself the Church, or any member of the Church, as a
standard, he will be very likely to form a high estimate of his progress
in religion, and be very well satisfied with himself.
V. WHAT IS PROOF OF GROWTH IN GRACE
1. An individual who grows in grace is more and more actuated by
principle, and less and less by emotion or feeling. I do not mean that
such a person has less feeling, but that he acts less under the
influence of feeling or emotion. He does things, less because he feels
so, and more because it is right.
Converts should know that the way to call emotion or feeling into
exercise, is to engage, from principle, in the performance of duty; and
that whenever a man engages in the performance of duty from a regard to
the authority of God, he may expect, in this way, to call into exercise
those feelings for which young converts are so apt to wait. A growing
regard to the authority of God, a strengthening of the purpose of
obedience, a more firm and constant adherence to what is right, and to
what God requires because it is right, at once constitutes, and is an
evidence of, growth in grace.
2. Another important evidence of growth in grace is more love to God. By
this I do not mean that there will be in all cases a conscious increase
of emotions of love to God. But that there will be a strengthening of
real attachment to God's character and government.
I do not mean by this that increasing love to God will lead individuals
to use carnal weapons, in building up or defending His government; but
that if they are true friends to God, the longer they live under His
government, the more confidence they have in Him, and the more
attachment to Him. This increased attachment will evince itself in a
growing veneration for all the institutions of religion, for the
Sabbath, and all the commands of God.
3. Another evidence of growth in grace is increased love to men as well
as love to God. Growing Christians show by their lives that they become
continually more and more inclined to do good to men. Young converts are
apt to be chiefly influenced by a special and partial regard to
individuals; their relations, or their former companions or neighbours.
As they increase in piety, they feel more and more a desire that the
world should be converted to God. They have more and more heart-breaking
agony at the dreadful state of men in their sins. And their views and
affections rise and expand, until they feel like God: their bowels of
compassion yearn for all men that they might repent and be saved.
4. Those who grow in grace feel more and more self-loathing. They have
greater humility and self-abasement. I suppose the saints will increase
in this to all eternity. I see nothing in this inconsistent with the
happiness of heaven. To all eternity, as the ages roll round, the saints
will feel constantly, more and more, how much they deserve to be sent to
hell for their wickedness. Growing Christians more and more loathe
themselves and wonder how God could have spared such wretches.
5. An increased abhorrence of sin is another mark of growth in grace.
When a person feels day by day less and less disposed to compromise with
sin, with any sin, in himself, or in others, it is a sign that he is
growing in grace. Is it so with you, beloved? Have you daily less and
less fellowship with sin in any shape, in yourself and in others? Do you
feel more as God feels towards sin?
6. He who grows in grace has less relish for the world. He has less and
less desire for its wealth, its honours, its pleasures. A desire for
these has less and less influence, as a motive in his mind. He seeks
wealth and honour only as instruments of glorifying God, and of doing
good to men.
A person who is growing in grace becomes less and less desirous of
worldly company and worldly conversation, and reading worldly books and
newspapers. You see a growing Christian engaged in holiness, and you
will find he will seize hold of the most spiritual books to read. He
will love the company and conversation of the most spiritual Christians.
He will relish, and if possible attend, the most pungent and searching
7. Increased delight in the fellowship of the saints, is another
evidence of growth in grace. The growing Christian loves to unite with
others in acts of devotion, and other religious exercises.
8. He who grows in grace finds it more and more easy to exercise a
forgiving spirit, and to pray for his enemies. There is nothing in which
men, who are in their natural state, more resemble the devil, than in
their harbouring angry and revengeful feelings towards those who have
injured them. If a person is growing in grace he will find it more and
more easy to forgive, and that is costs him less trouble to get over
supposed injuries, so as to be able to pray. Can you forgive the
greatest injuries at once, so that nothing of the kind can come up
between you and God to hinder your prayers?
9. Becoming more and more ready to bestow property is a sign of growth
in grace. If a person is growing in grace he will be more and more ready
to give, and willing to give ALL that is in his power. He will rejoice
to be called on. He will give more and more yearly. If he gives from
right motives he will be glad when he has given. And the more he gives
the more he loves to give. His giving will be part of his religion, and
he will grow in it just as in prayer.
10. He will feel less and less any separate interest. It is a great
thing, in regard to growth in grace, to feel that all you have is
Christ's, and that you have absolutely no separate interest in living,
or in dying, or in holding property, or children, or character. This is
a great and solemn lesson to learn. Persons who grow in grace feel that
their time, talents, property, life itself, have value, only in their
relation to Christ's kingdom.
11. It is an evidence of growth in grace when a person becomes more
willing to confess faults to men. This is a point often hard to learn.
Men are willing to confess to God, because they have not so far to stoop
to do this. But to confess fully and frankly to men is a great stoop for
a proud heart. But when they grow in grace, they would just as soon
confess a fault, and confess it frankly, to a servant, or an enemy, or
the lowest member of society, as to the most exalted individuals. Do you
know this? If you cannot do this, be sure you are not growing in grace,
if you have any grace.
12. Growing in grace raises a person more and more above the world. The
growing saint regards less and less either the good or ill opinions of
13. If you grow in grace you must expect very frequent and agonizing
conflicts with Satan. Satan has very little trouble with those
Christians who are not spiritual, but lukewarm, and slothful, and
worldly minded. And such do not understand what is said about spiritual
conflicts. Perhaps they will smile when such things are mentioned. And
so the devil lets them alone; they do not disturb him, nor he them. But
spiritual Christians, he understands very well, are doing him a vast
injury, and therefore he sets himself against them. Such Christians
often have terrible conflicts. They have temptations that they never
thought of before: blasphemous thoughts, atheism, suggestions to do
deeds of wickedness, to destroy their own lives, and the like. And if
you are spiritual, you may expect these terrible conflicts.
14. Another evidence of growth in grace, is an increasing weanedness
from the world.
15. Less temptation to sins of omission, is another evidence of growth
16. A growing tranquility under sudden and crushing disasters and
bereavements, is an evidence of growth in grace.
17. Less temptation to dwell upon, and to magnify our trials and
troubles, to think of them, and speak of them to others, is evidence
that we think less of self, and accept our trials and troubles with more
and more complacency in God, and consider them as "light afflictions."
18. A growing and realizing confidence in the wisdom, benevolence, and
universality of the providence of God, a state of mind that sees God in
19. When we find ourselves more and more readily impressed and affected,
quickened and stimulated by religious truth, and when we find an
increasing harmony in the action of all our powers, intellectual,
voluntary, and sensitive, in accepting, and resting in, the whole will
and providence of God, however afflictive they may be at present, we
have evidence that we are growing in grace.
20. A growing jealousy for the honour of God, for the purity and honour
of His Church, for the rights of God, and for the rights of all men, is
evidence of growing in conformity to God, and of growing in His favour.
VI. HOW TO GROW IN GRACE
1. Fulfill the conditions noticed under the third head of this lecture.
2. Young converts should watch against their besetting sins, such as
levity. This is the besetting sin of many persons, and unless they place
a tenfold watch at the door of their lips, they will never grow in
grace. Once yielding to a spirit of levity may grieve the Holy Spirit
and put out your light for a day; and giving way once, but makes way for
a repetition; so that unless you begin with decision and continue with
great prayer and watchings, to keep down the spirit of levity, you are
3. Censoriousness. Young converts are particularly in danger of this.
They enter upon religion full of ardour, and they are soon amazed at the
coldness and apathy of old professors of religion. And so they are
liable to say hard and censorious things about them.
But they ought to learn carefully to distinguish between the deep
principles of ripe Christians, and the lively feelings of young
converts. And whatever may be their sober judgment about the state of
others, young converts ought to be very careful what they say of them.
Do not speak censoriously of any; if you do, you grieve away the Holy
Spirit, and you will not grow in grace.
4. Anger. How many Christians are injured by letting their temper rise.
If they be women, they fret at their servants. Men fret at their clerks,
or at those who are in their employment; or they get angry with the
government, or with their neighbours; they go to finding fault in some
way or other, that shows they do not watch their temper. How can they
grow in grace?
5. Pride. Guard against pride and vanity in all their forms. Be very
careful never to purchase an article of dress, or furniture, or anything
calculated to foster vanity in your mind. Woman! You are going to buy a
hat; be careful not to get one that will make you think of it when you
wear it. Alas! how much pains some people take to foster their own bad
passions. The devil might go to sleep in regard to some Christians; he
has no need to lie in wait to tempt them &endash; they tempt themselves.
6. Selfishness in all its forms. Here is the great root of all the
difficulty. This is the foundation, the fountain, the substance, and sum
total, of all the iniquity under heaven. Watch here; look out
constantly; see where self comes out in your conduct, and there set a
guard. If you are making a bargain, see to it that you do not act from
selfish motives. Deal just as you would if you were dying. Do as you
would be done by.
7. Sloth. This is an evil enough to ruin the world. How many converts
stop and decline by sloth. In plain terms, they get lazy; like idle
servants, they saunter about as if they had nothing to do, they will not
take hold of the work, they are mere eye-servants, unprofitable enough,
a moth in the church.
8. Envy. If you see others going ahead of you in prosperity, in
influence, in talents, examine your feelings, and see whether you are
pleased at it. If the sight gives pain, beware!
9. Ambition. By this sin angels fell, and it is impossible to grow in
grace without suppressing it.
10. Impure thoughts. We are so much under the influence of sensible
objects, that unless we watch diligently, before we are aware, we are
perverted with impure thoughts. It is necessary to make a covenant with
our eyes, and with our ears too, and all our senses, or they will prove
the inlet of temptation and sin. If you find yourself in danger, turn
your thoughts away instantly.
11. Another direction for growing in grace is, take care to exercise all
the Christian graces. Exercise yourself especially in those things where
you find yourself most deficient.
12. Exercise decision of character. In nothing is decision of character
so indispensable as in religion. To walk with God a man must walk
contrary to the course of the world. He must face public sentiment and
go abreast, not unfrequently, of the opinions of all the world, and
nearly of all the church. If, on the one hand he can be awed by
opposition, or, on the other, courted by smiles and flattery, he will be
certain not to make headway, and stem the tide that is bearing him away
from God. Very few persons exercise sufficient decision to maintain a
spirit of prayer. No person can enjoy the spirit of prayer, who does not
maintain a conscience void of offence, towards God and man. He must be
willing to know, and do, all his duty.
A man must maintain great firmness of purpose, and great decision of
character, to be undeviating in the performance of secret duties. Men
are so apt to neglect secret prayer and private duties, when they do not
at the time feel disposed to engage in them, that without uncommon
energy of character, even the form of private duties will be more or
less punctually attended to, according to the state of feeling in which
the Christian finds himself at the time.
13. To grow in grace a man must possess great meekness. Meekness is
patience under injuries. In such cases he must learn to possess his soul
in patience. When he is reviled, he must learn not to revile again. And
if he is persecuted, to threaten not.
14. Remember that every step of progress must be made by faith and not
by works. Every step of progress in the Christian life is taken by a
fresh and fuller appropriation of Christ by faith, a fuller baptism of
the Holy Spirit.
VII. SOME THINGS THAT ARE EVIDENCES OF DECLENSION.
1. The person who grows weary of being asked to give for promoting the
kingdom of Christ is evidently declining. He says, "Now I think I have
given about enough, there seems to be no end to it, and I mean to stop;
there are so many agents constantly begging, it is time to break it up."
If you hear a man talk in that style, depend upon it he is either a
hypocrite, and has never given from right motives at all, or he is a
backslider, and is declining rapidly in piety.
2. Becoming backward to converse on the subject of religion, and
particularly to converse on spiritual and experimental, and
heart-searching points, is evidence of declension. Young converts, when
they are in the ardour of their first love, delight to pour out their
hearts in spiritual conversation; and when they lose their relish for
this, you may be sure they are declining in piety.
3. When a person is less disposed to engage in the duties of devotion,
public, social, or private, it is a sign of declension. If he does not
love so well to pray, and read his Bible, and draw near to God, he must
be declining in piety.
4. Taking more delight in public meetings than in secret communion with
God, is another evidence of a declining state. Those who enjoy religion,
enjoy themselves nowhere so well as in secret with God.
5. Feeling less delight in revivals of religion, is a sad token of
declension. The young convert delights in revivals. How eagerly he seeks
to know where there are revivals. How he dwells on such blessed
outpouring of the Spirit of God. But when he declines in piety, he
becomes less anxious to know about revivals.
6. A person that becomes captious about measures used in promoting
revivals, is in a declining state. If you find yourself growing very
much afraid of the measures that good men pursue, and that God owns and
blesses, for promoting revivals, you are evidently declining.
VIII. HOW TO ESCAPE FROM A STATE OF DECLENSION.
1. You must admit the conviction that you are in a state of declension.
2. Apply to yourself all that God says to backsliders, just as if you
were the only individual in the world in that condition.
3. Find out the point where you began to decline. See what was the first
cause of your backsliding, and give that up. You will often find this
first cause where you did not expect it, in some thing which you called
a little matter, or that you tried to make yourself believe was not a
God will always hold you at arm's length, and will frown upon you when
you pray, unless you search out and remove the cause of your declension.
Give up your idols.
4. Be careful to apply afresh to the Lord Jesus Christ, for pardon, and
peace with God. Go to Him just as you did at first, as a guilty,
condemned sinner, more deserving of hell than ever. Apply to this
fountain, which is set open in the House of David for sin and
uncleanness. Confess your sin fully, and forsake them, and thus return
to God, and He will have mercy on you, and will heal your backslidings,
and remember your iniquities no more.
See why revivals cease. When there is a revival, and Christians are
awake, and get a certain point, and then are carried no further, the
revival will cease of course. There are but few persons that grow in
grace. I have no doubt that if persons would do as they might, and give
the attention to it that they ought, the generality of professors of
religion might grow more in six months than they do now in all their
lives. If the church is kept advancing, the revival will not cease. If
the instructions given, and the measures used, keep the church going
ahead, and the young converts growing in grace, the revival will go on.
INSTRUCTIONS TO CONVERTS
Feed My lambs. John 21:15
These words were addressed by the Lord Jesus to Peter, after he had
denied Him and had professed repentance. Probably one of the designs
which Jesus had in view in suffering Peter to sin so awfully, was to
produce a deeper work of grace in his heart, and thus fit him for the
peculiar duty to which He intended to call him, in laying the
foundations of the Christian Church, and watching over the spiritual
interests of the converts.
In this lecture I am going to discuss the manner in which young converts
should be treated, and the instructions which should be given to them.
I. SEVERAL IMPORTANT POINTS CONCERNING THE HOPES OF YOUNG CONVERTS.
1. Nothing should be said to them to create a hope. Nothing should
ordinarily be intimated to persons under conviction, calculated to make
them think they are converted.
It is best to let their hope or belief that they are converted spring up
spontaneously in their own minds. Sometimes it will happen that persons
may be really converted, but owing to some notions which they have been
taught about religion they do not realize it. Their views of what
religion is, and its effect upon the mind, are so entirely wide of the
truth, that they do not think they have it. Suppose they do not see it
at once; they break down lower than ever, and then they will come out so
clear and decided, that they will know where they are.
2. When you see persons expressing a hope, and yet expressing doubts
too, it is generally because the work is not thorough; they need
breaking up. They are still lingering in the world, or they have not
broken off effectually from their sins, and they need to be pushed back,
rather than forward. If you see reason to doubt, or if you find that
they have doubts, most probably there is some good reason to doubt.
Sometimes persons express a hope in Christ, and afterwards remember some
sin that needs to be confessed to men; or some case where they have
slandered, or defrauded, where it is necessary to make satisfaction, and
where either their character, or their purse, is to be deeply implicated
that they hesitate, and refuse to perform their duty. This grieves the
Spirit, and brings darkness over their minds, and justly leads them to
doubt whether they are truly converted.
If a soul is truly converted, it will generally be found where there are
doubts, that on some point they are neglecting duty. They should be
searched as with a lighted candle, and brought up to the performance of
duty, and not suffered to think they are Christians until they do it.
Ordinarily, it is proper just there to throw into their minds some plain
and searching truth, that will go through them, something that will
wither their hopes like a moth. Do it while the Spirit of God is dealing
with the, and do it in a right way, and there is no danger of its doing
By such a mode of treatment, I have often known people of the crookedest
and most hateful natural character so transformed in the course of a few
days, that they appeared like different beings. You would think that the
work of a whole life of Christian cultivation had been done at once.
Doubtless this was the intent of the Savior's dealing with Peter.
II. SOME POINTS CONCERNING MAKING A PROFESSION OF RELIGION.
1. Young converts should, ordinarily, offer themselves to some church of
Christ immediately. They should not wait. If they set out in religion by
waiting, most likely they will always be waiting, and never do anything
to much purpose. If they are taught to wait under conviction, before
they give themselves to Christ; or if they are taught to wait after
conversion, before they give themselves publicly to God by joining the
Church, they will probably go halting and stumbling along all their
lives. The first thing they should be taught always is, never wait when
God has pointed out your duty.
2. Sometimes persons who are known to entertain a hope, dare not make a
profession of religion for fear they should be deceived. I always deal
decidedly with such cases. A hope that will not warrant a profession of
religion is manifestly worse than no hope, and the sooner it is torn
away the better. Shall a man hope he loves God, and yet dares not obey
Jesus Christ? Preposterous! Such a hope had better be given up at once.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING RIGHT INSTRUCTIONS TO YOUNG CONVERTS.
Ordinarily, their Christian character through life is moulded and
fashioned according to the manner in which they are dealt with when
first converted. There are many who have been poorly taught at first,
but have been afterwards reconverted, and if they are then properly
dealt with, they may make good.
But the proper time to do this is when they are first brought in, when
their minds are soft and tender, and easily yield to the truth. Then
they may be led by a slender thread, if they think it is the truth of
God. And whatever notions in religion they then get, they are apt to
cleave to forever afterwards.
IV. SOME THINGS WHICH SHOULD NOT BE TAUGHT TO YOUNG CONVERTS
1. "You will not always feel as you do now." When the young convert is
rejoicing in his Savior, and determining to live for the glory of God
and the good of mankind, how often he is told this. Thus preparing his
mind to expect that he shall backslide, and to not be much surprised if
he does. This is just the way the devil wants young converts dealt with:
to have older Christians tell them, "Your feelings will not last, by and
by, you will be as cold as we are." It has made my heart bleed to see
Such doctrine as this is the very last thing that should be taught to
young converts. They should be told that now they have only begun the
Christian life, and that their religion is to consist in going on in it.
They should be taught to go forward all the time, and grow in grace
continually. Do not teach them to taper off their religion. "The path of
the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the
perfect day." Now, whose path is that which groweth dimmer and dimmer
until the perfect night?
2. "Wait until you get strength, before you take up the cross." This is
applied to various religious duties. Sometimes it is applied to prayer,
as if prayer were a cross. I have known young converts to be advised not
to attempt to pray in their families, or in meetings. "Wait until you
get strength." Just as if they could get strength without exercise.
Strength comes by exercise. You cannot get strength by lying still. To
talk to a convert about neglecting Christian action until he gets
strength, is absurd. If he wants to gain strength, let him get to work.
3. Young converts should not be made sectarian in their feelings. They
should not be taught to dwell upon sectarian distinctions, or to be
sticklish about sectarian points. They ought to examine these points at
a proper time, and in a proper way, and make up their minds for
themselves, according to their importance. But they should not be taught
to dwell upon them, or to make much of them in the outset of their
religious life. Otherwise there is great danger that their whole
religion will run into sectarianism. I have seen most sad and melancholy
exhibitions of the effect of this upon young converts.
V. SOME THINGS WHICH SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO YOUNG CONVERTS.
1. Young converts should be taught to distinguish between emotion and
principle in religion. Do you understand me? I am going to explain what
I mean, but I want you to get hold of the words, and to have them fixed
in your minds.
By emotion, I mean that state of mind of which we are conscious, and
which we call feeling: an involuntary state of mind that arises
naturally when we are in certain circumstances or under certain
influences. There may be highly wrought feelings, or they may subside
into tranquility, or disappear entirely. But these emotions should be
carefully distinguished from religious principle.
By principle, I do not mean any substance or root or seed implanted in
the soul. But I mean the voluntary decision of the mind, the firm
determination to do one's duty, and to obey the will of God, by which a
Christian should always be governed.
When a man is fully determined to obey God, because it is right he
should obey God: I call that principle. Whether he feels any lively
religious emotion at the time or not, he will do his duty cheerfully,
and readily, and heartily, whatever may be the state of his feelings.
This is acting upon principle and not from emotion.
Young converts should be carefully taught, when duty is before them to
do it. However dull your feelings may be, if duty calls, DO IT. Most
likely the very emotions for which you wait will spontaneously arise
when you begin to do your duty. If the duty be prayer, for instance, and
you have not the feelings you would wish, do not wait for emotions
before you pray, but pray, and in doing it you are most likely to have
the emotions for which you were inclined to wait, and which constitute
the conscious happiness of religion.
2. Young converts should be taught that in turning to God, they have
renounced the ownership of all their possessions, and of themselves, or
if they have not done this they are not Christians. They should not be
left to think that anything is their own: time, property, influence,
faculties, bodies or souls. "Ye are not your own." All belongs to God.
When they submitted to God, they made a full surrender of all to Him, to
be ruled and disposed of at His pleasure. They have no right to spend
one hour as if their time were their won. No right to go anywhere, or to
do anything, for themselves, but should hold all at the disposal of God,
and employ all for the glory of God. If they do not, they ought not to
call themselves Christians, for the very idea of being a Christian is to
renounce self and become entirely consecrated to God.
3. Teach them to cultivate a tender conscience. I have often been amazed
to find how little conscience there is, even among those we hope are
Christians. And here we see the reason of it; their consciences were
never cultivated. They have not even a natural conscience. They have
dealt so rudely with their conscience, and resisted it so often, that it
has got blunted, and does not act.
It is astonishing to see how much the conscience may be cultivated by a
proper course. If rightly attended to, it may be made so pure, and so
powerful, that it will always respond exactly to the Word of God.
Present any duty to such a Christian, or any self-denial, or suffering,
and only show him the Word of God, and he will do it without an
objection. In a few months, if properly taught and attended to, young
converts may have a conscience so delicately poised that the weight of a
feather will turn it. Only bring a "Thus saith the Lord," and they will
always be ready to do that, be it what it may.
4. Young converts should be taught to pray without ceasing. That is,
they should always keep a watch over their minds, and be all the time in
a prayerful spirit. They should be taught to pray always, whatever may
take place. For the want of right instruction of this point many young
converts suffer loss and get far away from God.
Sometimes it happens that a young convert will fall into some sin, and
then he feels that he cannot pray, and instead of overcoming this, he
feels so distressed that he waits until the keen edge of his distress
passes away. Instead of going right to Jesus in the midst of his agony,
and confessing his sin out of the fullness of his heart, and getting a
renewed pardon, and peace restored, he waits until all the keenness of
his feelings has subsided, and then his repentance, if he does repent,
is cold and halfhearted. Let me tell you beloved, never do this; but
when your conscience presses you, go then to Christ, confess your sin
fully, and pour out your heart to God, and the Spirit may come upon you
at once, and lead your heart out in prayer, and all the dark clouds will
5. Young converts should be faithfully warned against adopting a false
standard in religion. They should not be allowed to fall in behind the
old professors of religion, or to keep them before their minds as a
standard of holy living. They should always look at Christ as their
model. Not just aiming at being a good Christian as the old church
members; but they should aim at being holy, and not rest satisfied until
they are as perfect as God. The Church has been greatly injured for want
of attention to this matter.
6. They must be taught not to aim at comfort, but usefulness in
religion. There are a great many spiritual epicures in the churches, who
are all the while seeking to be happy in religion, while they are taking
very little pains to be useful. They much rather spend their time in
singing joyful hymns, and pouring out their happy feelings in a gushing
tide of exultation and triumph, then to spend it in agonizing prayer for
sinners, or in going about and pulling dying men out of the fire. They
seem to feel as if they were born to enjoy themselves. But I do not
think that such Christians show such fruits as to make their example one
to be imitated.
Such was not the temper of the apostles, they travailed for souls, and
laboured in weariness and painfulness, and in deaths oft, to save
sinners. Ordinarily, Christians are not qualified to drink deeply at the
fountain of joy. In ordinary cases, a deep agony of prayer for souls is
more profitable than high flights of joy. Let young converts be taught
plainly not to calculate upon a life of joy and triumph. They may be
called to go through fiery trials; Satan may sift them like wheat. They
must go forward, not calculating so much to be happy as to be useful;
not talking about comfort but duty; not desiring flights of joy and
triumph, but hungering and thirsting after righteousness; not studying
how to create new flights of rapture, but how to know the will of God
and do it. They will be happy enough in heaven. There they may sing the
song of Moses and of the Lamb. And they will in fact enjoy a more solid
and rational happiness here, by patiently devoting themselves to do the
will of God.
7. They must learn to say, NO! This is a very difficult lesson to many.
See that young woman; formerly she loved the gay circle, and took
delight in its pleasures; she joined the church, and then found herself
aloof from all her old associates. They ask her not now to their balls
and parties, because they know she will not join them; and perhaps they
keep entirely away for a time, for fear she should converse with them
about their souls.
But, by and by, they grow a little bold, and some of them venture to ask
her just to take a ride with a few friends. She does not like to say,
No! They are her old friends, only a few of them are going, and surely a
ride is so innocent a recreation, that she accepts the invitation. But
now she has begun to comply, the ice is broken, and they have her again
as one of them.
It goes on, and she begins to attend their social visits, "Only a few
friends, you know," until by and by, the carpet is taken up for a dance;
and the next thing, perhaps, she is gone to a sleigh ride on a Saturday
night, and comes home after midnight, and then sleeps all the forenoon
on the Sabbath to make up for it, perhaps Communion Sabbath too. All for
the want of learning to say, No! Go a little further without learning to
say, No! and you are undone. If you do not wish to hang up the cause of
Christ to scorn and contempt, learn to resist the beginnings of
8. It is of great importance that young converts should be taught to be
strictly honest. I mean more by this than perhaps you think. It is a
great thing to be strictly honest. It is being very different from the
world at large, and different even from the great body of professors of
religion. The holiest man I ever knew, and one who had been many years a
Christian and a minister, once made the remark to me, "Brother, it is a
great thing to be strictly honest, upright, straight in everything, so
that God's pure eye can see that your mind is perfectly upright." Alas,
alas! how little conscience there is. How little of that real honesty,
that pure, simple uprightness, which ought to mark the life of a child
9. Teach them that religion does not consist in raptures, or ecstasies,
or high flights of feeling. There may be a great deal of these where
there is religion; but it ought to be understood that they are all
involuntary emotions, and may exist in full power where there is no
religion. They may be the mere workings of the imagination, without any
truly religious affection at all. I have known one person almost carried
away with raptures, by a mere view of the natural attributes of God, His
power and wisdom, and yet the person had no religion. Religion is
obedience to God, the voluntary submission of the soul to the will of
10. They should be made to understand that nothing which is selfish is
religion. Whatever desires they may have, and whatever choices and
actions they may put forth, if, after all, the reason of them is
selfish, there is no religion in them.
Nothing is acceptable to God, as religion, unless it be performed
heartily, to please God. No outward action has anything good, or
anything that God approves, unless it is performed from right motives
and from the heart.
Young converts should be taught fully and positively that all religion
consists in obeying God from the heart. All religion consists in
voluntary action. All that is holy, all that is lovely in the sight of
God, all that is properly called religion, consists in voluntary action,
in voluntarily obeying the will of God from the heart.
11. Young converts should be taught that the duty of self-denial is one
of the leading features of the Gospel. They should understand that they
are not pious at all, any further than they are willing to take up the
cross daily, and deny themselves for Christ.
Jesus Christ exercised self-denial to save sinners. God the Father
exercised self-denial in giving His Son to die for us, and in sparing
us, and in bearing with our perverseness. The Holy Ghost exercises
self-denial in condescending to strive with such unholy being to bring
them to God. The angels exercise self-denial in watching over this
world. The apostles planted the Christian religion among the nations by
the exercise of self-denial. And are we to think of being religious
without any self-denial.
12. Young converts, by proper instructions, are easily brought to be
"temperate in all things." Yet this is a subject which is greatly
neglected in regard to converts, and is almost lost sight of in the
churches. There is a vast amount of intemperance in the churches. I do
not mean intemperate drinking, in particular, but intemperance in
eating, and in living generally. There is in fact but little conscience
about it in the churches, and therefore the progress of reform in the
matter is so slow. Until Christians have a conscience on this subject,
and be made to feel that they have no right to be intemperate in
anything, they will make but little progress in religion.
13. They should be taught to have just as much religion in all their
business, as they have in prayer, or in going to meeting. They should be
just as holy, just as watchful, aim just as singly at the glory of God,
be just as sincere and solemn, in all their daily employments, as when
they come to the throne of grace. If they are not, their Sabbath
performances will be an abomination.
14. They should aim at being perfect. Every young convert should be
taught, that if it is not his purpose to live without sin, he has not
yet begun to be religious. What is religion but a supreme purpose of
heart or disposition to obey God? If there is not this, there is no
religion at all. If any are prepared to say they are perfect, let them
prove it. If they are so, I believe they will show it by their actions,
otherwise we can never believe they are perfect.
But it is the duty of all to aim at being perfect. It should be their
constant purpose to live wholly to God, and obey all His commandments.
They should live so, that if they should sin it would be an exception,
an individual case, in which they act contrary to the fixed and general
purpose and tenor of their lives. They ought not to sin at all, they are
bound to be as holy as God is; and young converts should be taught to
set out in the right course, or they will never be right.
15. They should be taught to exhibit their light. If the young convert
does not exhibit his light, and hold it up to the world, it will go out.
Let him use what he has; let him hold up his little twinkling
rush-light, boldly and honestly, and then God will pour in the oil and
make him like a blazing torch. But God will not take the trouble to keep
a light burning that is hidden. Why should He? What is the use?
16. They should be taught how to win souls to Christ. Converts should be
taught particularly what to do for this, and how to do it; and then be
taught to live for this end as the great leading object of life. The
great object for which Christians are converted and left in this world,
is, to pull sinners out of the fire. If they do not effect this, they
had better be dead. Young converts should be taught this as soon as they
are born into the kingdom of God.
VI. HOW YOUNG CONVERTS SHOULD BE TREATED BY THE CHURCH.
1. Old professors of religion ought to be able to give converts a great
deal of instruction, and they ought to give it.
2. Young converts should not be kept back behind the rest of the church.
How often it is found that old professors of religion will keep the
young converts back behind the rest of the church, and prevent them from
taking any active part in religion, for fear they should become
spiritually proud. Whereas, the very way to make young converts humble
and keep them so, is to put them to their work and keep them there. That
is the way to keep God with them, and as long as He is with them, He
will take care of their humility.
3. They should be watched over by the church, and warned of their
dangers, just as a tender mother watches over her young children. Young
converts do not know the dangers by which they are surrounded; the
devices of the devil, the temptations of the world, the power of their
own passions and habits, and the thousand forms of danger they do not
know; and if not properly watched and warned, they will run right into
4. Be tender in reproving them. When Christians find it necessary to
reprove young converts, they should be exceedingly careful of their
manner in doing it.
Many persons, under pretence of being faithful, as they call it, often
hurt young converts by such a severe and overbearing manner, as to drive
them away, or perhaps crush them into despondency and apathy. Young
converts have but little experience, and are easily thrown down. They
are just like a little child when it first begins to walk. The churches
ought to take up every stumbling-block, and treat them in such a way as
to make them see that if they are reproved Christ is in it, and then
they will receive it as it is meant, and it will do them good.
VII. SOME OF THE EVILS OF DEFECTIVE INSTRUCTION.
1. If not fully instructed, converts will never be fully grounded in
right principles. If they have right fundamental principles, this will
lead them to adopt a right course of conduct in all particular cases. In
forming a Christian character, a great deal depends on establishing
those fundamental principles which are correct on all subjects.
2. If young converts are rightly instructed and trained, it will
generally be seen that they will take the right side on all the great
subjects that come before the church. It is curious to see how ready
young converts are to take right ground, on any subject that may be
proposed. See what they are willing to do for the education of
ministers, for missions, moral reform, for the slaves. If the great body
of converts from the late revivals had been well grounded in Gospel
principles, you would have found in them throughout the churches, but
one heart and one soul in regard to every question of duty that occurs.
Let their early education be right, and you have got a body of
Christians that you can depend on. If this had been general in the
Church, how much more strength there would have been in all her great
movements for the salvation of the world.
3. If young converts are not well instructed they will inevitably
backslide. If their instruction is defective, they will probably live in
such a way as to disgrace religion. The truth, kept steadily before the
mind of a young convert, in proper proportions, has a natural tendency
to make him grow up into the fullness of the stature of a perfect man in
Jesus Christ. If any one point is made too prominent in the instruction
given, there will probably be just that disproportion in his character.
The Church is guilty for her past neglect in regard to the instruction
of young converts. Instead of bringing them up to be working Christians,
churches have generally acted as if they did not know how to employ
young converts, or what use to make of them. If the Church had only done
her duty in training up young converts to work and labour for Christ,
the world would have been converted long ago.
Young converts should be trained to labour for Christ, just as carefully
as young recruits in any army are trained for war. Suppose a captain in
the army should get his company enlisted, and then take no more pains to
teach, train, and discipline them, than are taken by many pastors to
train and lead forward their young converts. Why, the enemy would laugh
at such an army. Call them soldiers? Why, as to any effective service,
they don't know what to do nor how to do it, and if you bring them up to
the CHARGE, where are they? Such an army would resemble the church that
does not train her young converts. Instead of being trained to stand
shoulder to shoulder, they feel no practical confidence in their
leaders, no confidence in themselves, and they scatter at the first
shock of battle.
And so it must continue, until the Church shall train up young converts
to be intelligent, single-hearted, self-denying, working Christians. The
plan is to train a body of devoted Christians, who know how to pray, and
how to converse with people about their souls, and how to attend anxious
meetings, and deal with enquirers, and how to SAVE SOULS.